Over the last few weeks I've received a bunch of emails from frustrated Pharmers in sales, marketing, PR and even R&D, all wanting to engage and interact with patients while providing better and more accurate information for the general public on a variety of topics.
In each case, these were intelligent people who had got the hang of social media themselves from personal experience and saw the unlimited possibilities it offers.
What was also common is that the organisations involved were all leery of doing anything non-traditional or out of their comfort zone simply because it might not be impossible that some risk might happen, the FDA doesn't have any guidelines and they don't want that responsibility on their shoulders. Who knows what may happen yada yada…?
Granted we live in a highly regulated environment in Pharmaland, but we accept risk in clinical development, why not marketing?
Social media is disruption technology, it makes people uncomfortable. Just as extreme sports don't appeal to everyone, social media is viewed by many as 'extreme marketing'. If your organisation or team is not prepared to deal with a certain amount of chaos, it's probably not ready to handle it.
One trick I've learned for getting things done: don't call it social media and don't focus on the tools – think about the objectives and outcomes you want to achieve; the tools are just a means to an end, not the end in themselves.
The other thing that caught my imagination this week was Apple's iPad launch. This looks like a slick and useful tool for mobile on the road presentations and sharing of data, information, videos, all sorts of things. Who wants to lug around a heavy laptop plus an iPod, a kindle, and whatever other paraphernalia is necessary for a road trip?
Now, imagine those same Pharma people with an iPad on the road. It would allow you to catch up on the scourge of emails, write and edit presentations in iWork, share a short video or clinical synopsis with a doctor, discuss scientific data over coffee easily. Share news, medical or article links on Twitter, search for medical information, develop a team Mind Map around a particular idea, check your territory and team sales, use augmented reality to check a hospital to find the doctor, coffee shop, notes on the account, all with a few simple clicks etc etc.
This is the future of technology, right here, right now.
The intersection of technological changes, social media and digital interaction is changing faster than Pharma can even keep up with it, let alone get started. Tools like the iPad and social media will eventually mesh and a new way of communicating will eventually emerge. Who really needs a printed and out of date detail aid when you can discuss a clinical paper right there on the screen?
Nothing will change until the old guard retire or move on.
In their place is an army of young, dynamic and digitally savvy generation bursting with ideas, enthusiasm and a deep seated desire to do things differently and make change happen.
It's a funny old world: who would have thought that the President's State of the Union address and Apple's iPad announcement would have got me thinking about the chaos that social media causes in Pharma?
Plus ça change, plus de la même chose.
Photo credit: Apple.com